How SouthLake Christian Academy Makes COVID-Related Decisions

When setting safety protocols, school leaders evaluate the following:

  • Recommendations by local, regional, state, and federal health officials
  • Guidance from a task force of medical professionals associated with our school
  • The number of COVID-19 cases in the primary zip codes that feed our school
  • The percentage of COVID-19 cases in our area affecting children ages 0-17
  • The best available scientific evidence regarding the transmission and virulency COVID and its most prevalent strains
  • The best available scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of COVID prevention measures and their associated costs and risks
  • Our capacity to identify COVID cases in our school community and follow contact tracing and quarantine protocols to contain viral transmission
  • Transparency and cooperation from teachers, parents, and students sufficient to operate safely

First, we attend carefully to health guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), and the Mecklenburg County Health Department (MCHD). Additionally, the Governor of North Carolina and the North Carolina Department of Non-public Instruction issue guidance, recommendations, and/or mandates to which we must attend. All of these agencies update their guidance regularly, but sometimes in ways that conflict with other agencies.

Second, we try whenever possible to make decisions based on conditions in the primary zip codes that feed our school. Conditions in Mecklenburg County or NC as a whole can, at any given moment, be significantly better or worse than conditions in our primary zip codes.

Third, to help us review this ever-changing volume of data and make the best decisions for SouthLake, a team of medical professionals associated with our school review all proposed COVID protocols. In the end, our Executive Administrative Team makes final decisions, seeking to balance the medically ideal with the educationally feasible. We will continually assess current conditions adjust our safety protocols as needed.

We always aim to find a path between the extremes of panic and denial. We will assess risks in a reasonable way without being paralyzed by fear or pretending the pandemic is over. We will adopt the safety measures necessary to keep our students learning in person, on our campus, as safely as possible. We know not everyone will agree with every decision we make. We appreciate the cooperation of all our families nonetheless, and we recognize that as a part of a diverse community, we must operate with mutual trust and transparency to be successful. Our children deserve nothing less.

COVID Leadership

SouthLake Christian Academy – Update July 2021

I trust the summer is affording you a different pace of life and some time to recover from a stressful year. At the risk of interrupting your leisure, I would like to give you several school updates as we head into the second half of summer break.

Financial Operations

This week the School Board approved our budget for the coming academic year. We project revenue of approximately $7.8 million and expenses of around $7.5 million for a 4% operating margin, an important marker for a healthy organization. This assumes an enrollment of 610, and we are only 11 students away from that mark as of today. Our payroll expenses will increase from just under $4.1 million to almost $4.5 million (61.2% of our total budgeted expenses), with most of the increase supporting school-wide pay raises. We are also budgeting carefully for deferred maintenance. Based on a recent report from engineers and contractors, we have approximately $1.5 million in maintenance needs that must be addressed over the next 10-15 years, particularly HVAC, roofing, flooring, and paving. Simply put, as our facilities age, we must set aside money to keep them in good shape, admittedly not the most glamorous way to spend money. Simultaneously funding pay increases, facilities improvements, and strategic cash reserves feels like a juggling act, but we must keep all the balls in the air. We will always do our best to make decisions to best serve our students and put the Academy on the surest financial footing possible.

New Staff Roles

I have a few new staff roles to announce. Moving away from the “principal” titles more typical of public schools, Mark Apgar, Jennifer Thomas, and Becky Makla will now be Lower School Head, Middle School Head, and Upper School Head respectively. The Lower School has been the fastest growing division of SouthLake for the past two years, now with 12 classes, 24 teachers, and nearly 200 students and their families. Mark Apgar (soon-to-be Dr. Apgar) will thus need to focus his leadership on grades JK-4. Jennifer Thomas will relinquish her role as Assistant Principal and assume full leadership of grades 5-8. Becky Makla will no longer be interim but will assume permanent responsibility for leading grades 9-12. Kim Howlin has agreed to an expanded role as Middle School Dean of Students, a job she has already been doing without the title. Farrell Boone will take on new responsibilities as JK-8 Curriculum Director, helping us complete curriculum mapping needed for an accreditation review later this academic year. I will have several new teachers to introduce to you in my next email correspondence in August.

New Carpet and Paint

Most of the carpet on our campus is – shall I say this euphemistically – vintage, antique, original to the school. The time has come for us to replace it. This week we have been packing up carpeted offices and moving furniture into hallways. Next week almost all the carpet on campus will be replaced. The First Building Commons will also get carpet as the space is being renovated to create a sanctuary for SouthLake Church and a chapel, meeting space, and performance venue for the Academy. Until the carpet project is complete, some folks may be working from home for the next week or so while trying to avoid flashbacks of COVID lockdown.

COVID Measures for Fall

We continue to monitor guidance and legislation by local and state officials regarding COVID protocols for fall. We hope to begin the school year normally, ending most or all of our unusual safety measures, but I acknowledge this is dependent somewhat on circumstances beyond our control. Anecdotally I can tell you we’ve been operating summer camps mostly without masks and without incident. One safety measure will remain, however. If exposed, unvaccinated people will need to quarantine. Although we are not requiring the vaccine this year, it will eliminate your need to quarantine if exposed to COVID.

Happy Independence Day

As we prepare to celebrate our nation’s independence, I share with you the concluding phrase of the Declaration of Independence: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” These words remind me that any worthwhile endeavor needs both divine providence and mutual trust. I am thankful to live in a country and serve a school that actively recognizes the former and continually seeks to build the latter.

Matthew S. Kerlin, Ph.D.

Head of School

SouthLake Christian Academy

Education